November 14, 2018 - German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier pledged to shield his country’s auto industry from a trade war with the U.S. amid signs that President Donald Trump will hold off for now on car tariffs.
“We don’t know what decision the president will take but we will do everything to avoid an escalation,” Altmaier said Wednesday in a speech in Berlin. A Commerce Department probe into whether to slap levies on cars, vans and light trucks as well as car parts will be concluded soon, and talks between the U.S. and the European Union are in a “decisive phase,” he said.
Trump and his top trade advisers met Tuesday to discuss a draft report on the investigation. The administration isn’t ready to act on tariffs and the report will be subject to further changes, two people familiar with the matter said.
“When we allow trade relations to become hostage to politics, when we allow the question of open markets to become a means of political conflict, then our citizens will pay a damned high price for it.”
The European Union last year shipped 1.1 million cars to the U.S., led by Volkswagen AG brands Audi and Porsche, and BMW AG. The planned U.S. tariffs would hit autos and parts worth 58 billion euros ($65 billion), the European Commission said in June, adding about 10,000 euros to the price of a European-built car.
Altmaier said that Germany will ensure the EU has a “joint response to this challenge” and that an offer to reform World Trade Organization rules is designed to placate the U.S. “It’s about coming up with new rules that help create a level playing field with countries like China,” he said.